(Acts of the Saints), the title given to collections of the lives of martyrs [ SEE ACTA MARTYRUM ] and of saints in the ancient Church.
1. We first find the title Acta Sanctorum in Eusebius (fourth century). In consequence of an edict of Diocletian, of the year 303, which commanded the destruction of all the Christian records, a great gap was created in the records of the Church, which was afterward filled with legends and traditions, abounding in errors, omissions, and exaggerations. Collections of the Acta Sanctorum, principally for edification, were made in the Vitae Patrum, probably by Jerome of Dalmatia; by Gregory of Tours in the sixth century; in the Synaxarium (q.v.) of the Greek Church, in the eighth century, by John of Damascus; by Simeon Metaphrastes in the tenth century; in the Golden Legend of Jacob of Viraggio in the thirteenth, which went through 71 editions from 1474 to 1500; and in the Catalogus Sanctorum of Peter de Natalibus (Vicenza, 1493). A more critical treatment is found in the Sanctuarium of Boninus Mombritius (Venice, 1474, 2 vols.); in Lipoman, Vitae Sanctor. (Rome, 1551-1560,8 vols.); and particularly in Ruinart, Acta Martyrum sincera (Paris, 1689, fol.). SEE MARTYROLOGY.
2. The most celebrated collection of the Acta Sanctorum is that commenced by Bollandus, and still continued by a society of Jesuits. It is one of the most remarkable works ever produced, whether regarded as to the labor and time spent upon it, or to the comparative worthlessness of its matter. It has been two hundred years in progress, has reached the fifty- fifth folio volume, and is still in progress. This stupendous undertaking originated with Rosweyde, a Jesuit, who announced his intention in a Fasti Sanctorum quorum vita in Belgicis bibliothecis manuscripte asservantur (Antwerp, 1607); but he died in 1629, before any part was printed. After his death his materials came into the hands of Johannes Bollandus, who established correspondence with all parts of Europe, in order to obtain information from every possible source. In 1635 he associated with himself Godefridus Henschenius; and these two published at Antwerp in 1643 the first two volumes, in folio, under the title of "Acta Sanctorum quotquot toto orbe coluntur vel a Catholicis Scriptoribus celebrantur." These volumes contain the lives of the saints who are commemorated by the Roman Church in the month of January only. In 1658 three more volumes appeared, embracing February. After this, Daniel Papebrochius was associated as coeditor; but Bollandus himself died, Sept. 12,1665, before the vol. for March appeared. As the work proceeded, other editors were appointed, and generation after generation sank into the grave during its long progress. It would occupy too much time and space to enumerate the separate labor of each. The work itself was published in the following order: January, 2 vols. 1643; February, 3 vols. 1658; March, 3 vols. 1668; April, 3 vols. 1675; May (with a Propylaeum), 8 vols. 1685-1688; June, 6
vols. 1695-1715; July, 7 vols. 1719-1731; August, 6 vols. 1733-1743; September, 8 vols. 1746-1762; October, vol. 1:1765; 2:1768; 3:1770; 4:1780; 5:1786; 6:1794: this volume ended at the 15th of October (see Walch, Bibl. Theol. 3, 657 sq.). The work was stopped by the suppression of the Jesuits, and it appeared to be altogether extinguished by the French Revolution; but in 1838 it revived, and there was printed at Namur a prospectus, De prosecutione operis Bollandiani quod ACTA SANCTORUM SEE ACTA SANCTORUM inscribitur. In 1845 appeared vol. 7 of October, in two parts — the first containing the saints of the 15th of October; the second the saints of the 16th. New editions of the first 4 volumes of October appeared in 1859 and 1860. The work is still in progress, and the Jesuits receive for its continuation an annual stipend from the Belgian government. Some idea of its vast extent may be gathered from the fact that the lives of more than 2000 saints remain, and that 50 more vols. fol. may be expected to complete the work.
The editors are as follow, with the number of years and volumes on which they were engaged: Jo. Bollandus (died 1665), 34 years, 8 vols.; Godefr. Henschenius (died 1681), 46 years, 24 vols.; Daniel Papebrochius (died 1714), 55 years, 19 vols.; Conrad Janningus (died 1723), 44 years, 13 vols.; Franc. Baertius (died 1719), 38 years, 10 vols.; Joan. Bapt. Sollerius (died 1740), 38 years, 12 vols.; Joan. Pinius (died 1749), 35 years, 14 vols.; Guil. Cuperus (died 1741), 21 years, 11 vols.; Petrus Boschius (died 1736), 15 years, 7 vols.; Joan. Stiltingus (died 1762), 25 years, 11 vols.; Constant. Suyskenus (died 1771), 26 years, 11 vols.; Joan. Perierus (died 1762), 15 years, 7 vols.; Urban. Stickerus (died 1753), 2 years 1 vol.; Joan. Limpenus (retired 1750), 9 years, 3 vols.; Joan. Veldius (retired 1747), 5 years, 2 vols.; Joan. Cleus (retired 1760), 7 years, 3 vols.; Corn. Bueus (died 1801), 33 years, 6 vols.; Jacob. Bueus (died 1808), 32 years, 6 vols.; Joseph Guesquierus (died 1802), 10 years, 4. vols.; Ignat. Hubenus (died 1782), 10 years, 1 vol. The renewal of the work was undertaken in 1838 by Jo. Bapt. Boone, Joseph. Vandermoere, Prosper Coppens, and Joseph. Vanhecke, Jesuits of the college of St. Michael at Brussels. The first 42 vols., coming down to Sept. 14, were reprinted at Venice in 1734 sq.; but in inferior style. A new edition of the entire work has been commenced by Ceirnandet, in 1863. (Paris, tom. 1, p. 821, embracing the first eleven days of January). SEE SAINTS.